Seven players on a historic Dunbar High School football team cemented plans for their athletic and educational futures on Tuesday.
Nick Thomas, Jeremiah Livingston and Derrick Moultry all signed with D-III Muskingum University in Ohio; Jonathan Cole, Deondrick McCutcheon and Demetrie Morgan will continue their playing careers at MTI Junior College in Pompano Beach; and Erick Scott inked plans to play at D-III North Park University in Chicago.
All played key roles on a Tigers squad that went undefeated in the regular season for the first time in program history.
“Any time you get the guys that have put in the work and done all the right things for you, and they get an opportunity to go continue their education and play the game that they love, it’s a great day,” Dunbar head football coach Sammy Brown said.
Three-star safety Avian Rice signed with Alabama A&M in February.
Morgan, a defensive lineman, capped an outstanding career in 2021, totaling 71 tackles, 22 tackles-for-loss, 11 sacks and a forced fumble in his senior year. He was named to The News-Press All-Area Defense Team and the Southwest Florida Sports Awards All-Region Football Defense Team.
“It felt great,” Morgan said of signing with MTI. “It was a new feeling. It’s not the Friday night feeling, but it’s a good feeling because I get to excel and go to the next level.”
In some ways, it was a relief for Morgan and his family.
“It was a lot of trial and tribulation trying to figure out where I was going to go, but this school was the best fit for me, and it’s going to help me get to where I need to be,” he said.
Morgan had to overcome situations where he felt led on by coaches and being a casualty of the chaotic transfer portal in college football. His mother, Demetria Buchanon, said that, in one case, a school with 37 signings only offered to four high school players.
“Demetrie’s been really calm and relaxed about it, but me, I’ve been stressed,” she said.
Between consequences of the pandemic and the portal making experienced players more enticing for college programs, the recruiting process for these athletes proved challenging.
“With the way the portal’s working, I mean, they’re kind of gobbling up all the high school scholarships by taking the guys from other schools and they’re ready to play right away,” Brown said. “As football progresses and the portal kind of works itself out, I think we’ll be fine.”
For Buchanon, it was most important that her son was content with his decision.
“It’s relief because he’s happy with that school,” she said. “He went there, he felt at home and he told me, ‘Ma, I prayed over it.’”
Whether these Dunbar seniors use these opportunities as a springboard for football or not, what is critical is the chance to advance their education, according to Principal Carl Burnside.
"Growing up here in Fort Myers, I've seen, over the decades, so many kids that were Friday Night heroes, and they never went anywhere to school," he said. "And when I became principal here, that was something that I was determined wasn't going to happen. And so yes, they're athletes, but, more important, they're students — going to school, getting that degree, becoming a productive citizen and ... having high character."
"I'm very proud of what we continue to do here at Dunbar High School," Burnside said.
Follow News-Press Sports Reporter Dustin Levy on Twitter: @DustinBLevy. For additional coverage of sports across Southwest Florida, follow @newspresssports and @ndnprepzone on Instagram.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Dunbar football: Seven players commit to play at the next level